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|CHARTER COMMUNICATIONS, INC. /MO/ filed this Form 10-Q on 10/26/2017|
CHARTER COMMUNICATIONS, INC. AND SUBSIDIARIES
NOTES TO CONSOLIDATED FINANCIAL STATEMENTS
(dollars in millions, except per share amounts and where indicated)
17. Employee Benefit Plans
The Company sponsors two qualified defined benefit pension plans, the TWC Pension Plan and the TWC Union Pension Plan, that provide pension benefits to a majority of Legacy TWC employees. The Company also provides a nonqualified defined benefit pension plan for certain employees under the TWC Excess Pension Plan.
Pension benefits are based on formulas that reflect the employees’ years of service and compensation during their employment period. Actuarial gains or losses are changes in the amount of either the benefit obligation or the fair value of plan assets resulting from experience different from that assumed or from changes in assumptions. The Company has elected to follow a mark-to-market pension accounting policy for recording the actuarial gains or losses annually during the fourth quarter, or earlier if a remeasurement event occurs during an interim period.
The components of net periodic pension cost (benefit) for the three and nine months ended September 30, 2017 and 2016 consisted of the following:
The service cost component of net periodic pension cost (benefit) is recorded in operating costs and expenses in the consolidated statements of operations while the remaining components are recorded in other pension benefits (costs). During the three and nine months ended September 30, 2017, settlements for lump-sum distributions to qualified and nonqualified pension plan participants exceeded the estimated annual interest cost of the plans. As a result, the pension liability and pension asset values were reassessed as of September 30, 2017 utilizing remeasurement date assumptions in accordance with the Company's mark-to-market pension accounting policy to record gains and losses in the period in which a remeasurement event occurs. The $30 million remeasurement loss recorded during the three and nine months ended September 30, 2017 was primarily driven by the adoption of the revised lump sum conversion mortality tables published by the Internal Revenue Service effective January 1, 2018, and the effects of a decrease of the discount rate from 4.20% at December 31, 2016 to 3.88% at September 30, 2017. The effects of these changes were partially offset by a gain to record pension assets to fair value at September 30, 2017. The expected long-term rate of return on plan assets remains at 6.50%.
The $675 million pension curtailment gain and $157 million net remeasurement loss recognized during the nine months ended September 30, 2016 resulted from an amendment to the plans made subsequent to the TWC Transaction. During the second quarter of 2016, the Company amended the pension plans to freeze future benefit accruals to current active plan participants, driving the recognition of the pension curtailment gain, as no future compensation increases or future service will be credited to participants of the pension plans. Upon announcement and approval of the plan amendment, the assumptions underlying the pension liability and pension asset values were reassessed utilizing remeasurement date assumptions, resulting in the net remeasurement loss.
The Company made no cash contributions to the qualified pension plans during the three and nine months ended September 30, 2017 and 2016; however, the Company may make discretionary cash contributions to the qualified pension plans in the future. Such contributions will be dependent on a variety of factors, including current and expected interest rates, asset performance, the funded status of the qualified pension plans and management’s judgment. For the nonqualified unfunded pension plan, the Company will continue to make contributions during 2017 to the extent benefits are paid.